How to commission art – top tips

commisioning art

Need a special painting for a particular room or wall in your home? This blog post will help you work with an artist (hopefully me!) to create the perfect commissioned piece that will make you happy every time you see it.

Most artists are willing to create a custom piece of artwork for you, all you need to do is ask! There are different reasons why you might want to ask for a commission, instead of purchasing a painting off the shelf (erm…wall). For example, you might love a certain painting, but it just won’t fit the wall you have for it. You may have fond memories of a certain place and wish the artist to work from photos you have taken. From an interior designer’s point of view, you may need specific colours or motifs within the painting to work within a room you are renovating.

When you approach an artist, it is helpful to have a clear idea of what you are looking for so you can describe to the artist what you like. On the other hand, an artist will usually create more effectively when he/she has the freedom to do what they think is best for the painting. I’m happy to brainstorm ideas with a client who is unsure what they want, making recommendations on subject/style/medium/colour palette etc.

So how do you get what you want and still let the artist be creative? The most important thing is to communicate to the artist about any specific considerations you have. Also, you will get the best results if you want a painting in the style that the artist is currently working in. It’s always an awkward conversation if you present art by a different artist and effectively ask for ‘one like that’… it’s not a great career move for an artist to forge a painting or style!

Most artists can adapt their painting to the colour of your choice. It is always best if the artist can see the space in person before they start if this is possible, getting a feel for the furniture and fabrics and general scheme of the room. You can point out to the artist which elements of the room you would like to tie together with the painting. Alternatively, the artist can work with snapshots of the room or even fabric and wallpaper samples. If you are more flexible with the colours, you can always paint a wall to set off the colours of a painting. You can use the colour of your wall to change the look of a painting and draw attention to certain colours within the painting. This optical illusion trick also works with accents in your room, like a rug or cushions.

A painting can be created in any size you like. What size of painting is best for your wall? Consider its position allowing for lights and switches etc that get in the way of the perfect positioning. It’s good to take into the consideration what the painting will look like from different vantage points around the house. You want the painting to be as visible as possible from as many angles as possible. One approach is to mock up a fake painting on your wall using masking tape. You can measure out a square with four lengths of masking tape placed directly on the wall, and then walk around and look at it and make sure it is the correct size.

Open, natural light always makes a painting look great, but after the sun goes down you will need artificial lighting. Some houses have warm incandescent lighting, others have cool LED lighting, and a painting will change colour depending on the lighting around it. Unfortunately most ceiling lights are designed to only illuminate downwards, leaving the walls dark in the corners and near the tops of the walls. A painting will always look better if you can get a spotlight on it from above. These are surprisingly inexpensive to have installed by an electrician. Halogen spotlights will bring out the colours and texture in your painting and make it glow like it’s in a gallery! So, it is helpful for an artist to know what sort of lighting will be around the commissioned work. For example, if the painting will be in a dark corner, the artist will avoid a dark colour palette or subtle contrasts that will be missed on a shadowy wall.

Framing is usually left up to the customer. I personally like how gallery-wrapped paintings look in an elegant floater frame, where there is a small space between the edge off the canvas and the frame itself. Canvases look great unframed as well as framed. I’m always happy to advise on frame selection and can also arrange for my excellent local framer to frame the piece too if desired.

Contract and Terms
Many artists like to sign a contract with their client before starting a commissioned work. I personally like to send a quotation outlining what we have agreed and then I ask for a 50% deposit up front, with the remainder due when the client has the painting in their home (UK clients) and it is everything they hoped it would be.
Photos of the painting are emailed during the process and when the painting is completed, and the client can usually tell right away if they like it or not, although the final test is seeing the painting on the wall. With enough communication up front about your expectations, the painting should turn out right the first time.

The price of the commission should depend more or less on the size of the painting and the time it will take to complete. There is no exact science however as I have done commissions for less than what I would normally charge, simply because I was excited about the idea of the painting… even for free if I feel strongly about the charity I would be supporting.

Three Helpful Tips
1. Go through the artist’s portfolio or website with the artist and point out which paintings you like or don’t like, and what you like or don’t like about each painting.
2. Consider a “triptych” or a “diptych” for your home, a painting that continues across two or three separate canvases, giving the art a unique, exciting look. Take a look at this example.
3. Provide as much reference material/photos as possible for specific commissions.

Would you like to commission me to create a painting for you or a friend/relative? Please get in touch here to discuss your ideas in more detail.